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Pharmaq plans USD 19 million vaccine investment

Salmon being vaccinated. (Photo Credit: Pharmaq)
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Friday, April 17, 2015, 22:00 (GMT + 9)

Pharmaceutical company specializing in aquaculture Pharmaq plans to invest heavily in large-scale GMP production of viruses for fish vaccines in a new facility at Kløfta. This is the largest investment in the company's history.

"For us this is a strategic decision which enhances our ability to supply ever more new products to the aquaculture industry," says Pharmaq's Managing Director, Morten Kr. Nordstad.

At present, Pharmaq rents premises for virus production at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo. However, the Institute is about to close its production facilities for sterile drugs and many have predicted that Norwegian biotechnology companies will move abroad when this happens.

"From the outset we have been of the opinion that no other suitable facilities exist in Norway. We have considered setting up abroad, for example in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Germany or Singapore," says Nordstad.

The conclusion is that Pharmaq will invest in the rebuilding of premises at Kløfta, in Akershus County.

Following the rebuilding, Pharmaq will lease the premises from Oslo Pensjonsforsikring (OPF), the insurance company which owns the building. Adaptation of equipment is estimated to cost at least NOK 150 million (USD 19 million), a cost which will be shared between the owner and the tenant. The investment is a considerable undertaking and the largest in the history of Pharmaq.

Although Pharmaq's analyses show that investing in Kløfta will be more expensive than investing in production facilities abroad, the company has concluded that maintaining its existing production expertise and the proximity of R&D to production facilities are crucial to its capacity for rapid innovation. Moreover, the premises in Kløfta lend themselves well to rebuilding.

"We will now have new premises which are very well adapted to our production processes. This will improve our ability to develop and supply new vaccines rapidly, and at the same time we will maintain the important closeness to our research and development environment," says Nordstad.

And according to Nordstad, innovation is essential:

"The global aquaculture industry will continue to grow. Rapid population growth and declining wild fish catches are creating an unsatisfied demand for seafood, which must be met by industrial aquaculture. However, the growth of the industry is hampered by challenges presented by fish health and diseases. Vaccines are a crucial part of the solution to these problems," says Nordstad.

He points out how the introduction of vaccines in Norwegian salmon farming in the 1990s eliminated the use of antibiotics, and in his opinion, new and more effective vaccines are essential for new, sustainable growth in aquaculture.

In the last ten years the company has presented new fish vaccines every year, and in its best year as many as four.

"Every year we channel almost a fifth of our profits back into new research and development. This has given us a unique ability to launch new products with high frequency. We want to contribute to the development and continued growth of aquaculture," Nordstad concludes.

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